Home > Culture, Theology > The Myth of Tolerance: Why It’s Better to be Loving Than Tolerant

The Myth of Tolerance: Why It’s Better to be Loving Than Tolerant

The term “tolerance” has grown in popularity over the past several years.  It’s used most commonly to promote diversity, inclusion and a general acceptance of all lifestyles, worldviews and beliefs.  In many cases, when people call for tolerance they’re not actually asking for a general acceptance of who they are as a person (most people are ok with this concept), they’re demanding a celebration and embrace of their lifestyle and worldview, no matter how absurd they may be.

More Harm Than Good

The myth of tolerance is that it’s loving to embrace and celebrate other people no matter how damaging their behaviors.  While it is important that we love people who are different than us, that doesn’t mean we have to accept and celebrate their sinful choices.

Image via store.gospeltract.org

Image via store.gospeltract.org

At first glance, tolerance seems like the loving route, but it’s not.  When I was a kid for example, my little brother and I were playing in the yard when we discovered millions of little yellow pellets littering the grass.  We didn’t know what they were, but they looked fun, so we started playing with them.  We put them in our pockets, threw them in the air and rubbed them on our skin.  We did everything short of eat them.

It wasn’t long until my mom came out in a panic and rushed us into the house to wash off the fertilizer we had foolishly been playing with.  She cleaned us up, warned us never to play in the fertilizer again and sent us back outside.   It might have been tolerant for my mom to let us play in the fertilizer, but it wouldn’t have been loving.  In fact, tolerance would have done my brother and I great harm.

A Better Way

The truth is, at times genuine love must be intolerant.  Because I love my wife, I won’t tolerate anyone mistreating her.  Because I love my church, I won’t tolerate false teaching. Because parents love their children they won’t tolerate them eating fertilizer, sticking their hands down the dish disposal or playing in the street.  Why?  Because real love refuses to tolerate the things that do harm to the people we care about.

This doesn’t mean we should degrade, mistreat or condemn the people who are unlike us.  We should love, care for, respect, serve, bless and befriend people with different beliefs, world views and lifestyles, but that doesn’t mean we have to embrace and celebrate their sin. It means that we care for and respect others in spite of their sins and differences, not because of them. And it means that, at times, we should love them enough to correct them. Just like God does for us.

Love Wins

God accepts and affirms believers in Jesus Christ in spite of our sin, but that doesn’t mean that he is ok with our sin. Just like my mom refused to tolerate my brother and I playing in the fertilizer because we could get hurt, so God also will not tolerate the sin in our lives because it does great damage to our souls.  My mom loved my brother and I exactly as we were, but she refused to let us stay that way.

Similarly, God loves us exactly as we are, sin and all, but he loves us enough not to let us stay in our sin. He loved us enough to send Jesus to the cross to forgive us, clean us and free us. As we come to know the love of Christ, our sin is confronted and our hearts are changed.

Instead of tolerating people, try loving people.  Look past their sins and short-comings and accept them for who they are, just as God does for you in Christ.  Lovingly correct others when needed and be open to correction from others at all times. Point them to Jesus and let him be the one to change their world views and lifestyles, just as you look to Jesus to change your own.

This post is an excerpt from a recent sermon I preached in the “Sex, Singleness & Marriage” sermon series at the Living Hope Church-Maryville Campus called “Tolerance & Sexuality.” You can view the sermon by clicking here.

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Categories: Culture, Theology Tags: , , , ,
  1. September 9, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    A much needed post in this over tolerant world. Thanks brother!

  2. September 9, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    Great post. Thanks, I enjoyed reading that. Tolerance is a funny word, it used to mean to suffer, as in to tolerate pain. Or to resist, as in someone who has built up a tolerance to medication. We’ve completely turned the word upside down, so now tolerance means to condone everything so nobody ever has to suffer or resist. That complete reversal always catches me off guard.

    In the olden days, expressing tolerance was kind of an insult. You tolerate small children and grandma’s poorly behaved dog. Nobody ever tolerated something or someone because they approved of the thing, it was a grace you bestowed on someone who didn’t know better. To hear tolerance promoted these days as something respectful, also throws me for a loop.

    • September 10, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      This was a very insightful comment. Thank you for enlightening me!

  3. October 20, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    Thanks…enjoyed!! Like your analogy.

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